Sustainability

Intellectual Property Management

The NGK Group encourages the creation of intellectual property (IP) rights and works to ensure proper protection and use of IP rights. In addition, based on the policy of respect for the rights of others and ourselves, it aims for a strategic patent network to be built within the close cooperation between the Intellectual Property Department and other divisions such as Business, Research and Development, and Technology Divisions.
Specifically, it features a patent mapping function to present the internal and external patent landscape of specific technology areas using charts and graphs, which can be easily shared within the Group.
To prevent patent infringement risks, we regularly conduct patent monitoring of other companies for product families and development themes to update our database.

Change in the Number of Patents Held

Graph of the number of patents held. As of the end of March 2021, we held 3,521 Japanese patents and 4,452 foreign patents.

Number of Patents Held As of March 32, 2021

Illustration representing the number of patents held as of the end of March 2021: 3,521 Japanese patents and 4,452 foreign patents.

Intellectual Property Management System

Integrated management of intellectual property for the entire NGK Group is carried out by the Intellectual Property Department. This department also pursues intellectual property-related activities in conjunction with various other departments and divisions.

Diagram of the intellectual property management system. The Intellectual Property Department, a specialist department, carries out centralized management of intellectual property.

Responsibilities of the Intellectual Property Department

  • Application for/acquisition of IP rights (patent, utility model, design): Establish IP rights for NGK’s research and development achievements to safeguard corporate assets on a legal basis
  • Patent search: Analyze the current patent landscape of other companies to prevent patent infringement risks
  • Administration and operation of patent management systems
  • Administrative work relating to acquired patent rights, including maintenance of rights, operation of the employee invention compensation system, and cooperation with patent law firms
  • Application for/acquisition and maintenance of trademark rights for corporate logos and product trade names and marks
  • Copyright
  • In-house training of intellectual property

Intellectual Property Training

Training for Young Engineers

E-learning and seminars are provided with the aim of providing basic training for young engineers and of up-skilling for patent applicants.
Also, focusing primarily on young engineers in the Research and Development Department, trainings in patent search methods are conducted. These methods are taught via individual, computer-based practical training.
In fiscal 2020, training was carried out via remote learning in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IP Training Provided in FY2020

Intended participants Number of participants
Patent Act introductory e-learning Young engineers 82
Seminars on the patent system (Patent I/II/III) Young engineers 168
Seminars to acquire skills for using the IP search program Employees in charge, engineers 186
Small-group workshops Young engineers in the Business and the Research and Development Divisions 272
(total for 28 sessions)

Education Program for Managers

NGK implemented an education program for managers in order to improve intellectual property strategy within business divisions and the Research and Development Division.
In March of fiscal 2020, the 10th “Thinking about Intellectual Property” seminar was held, with participants taking part via remote learning. The former head of the Intellectual Property Division of Seiko Epson Corporation, Mr. Masataka Kamiyanagi, was invited to present the seminar, choosing as his theme: “Intellectual Property Strategy for Business Success.” Around 200 took part in this seminar focusing on how to approach intellectual property strategy in the midst of a changing business and intellectual property environment in order to find success in business.

Employee Invention Compensation System to Provide Incentives for Employee Inventions

In order to further encourage employees to create outstanding inventions, a revamped employee invention compensation system was launched in April 2019, which is divided into four categories: application incentives, registration incentives, implementation incentives, and excellent invention incentives.
The aim of the newly established “excellent invention incentives” category is to recognize, via a substantial financial reward and commendation, the contributions inventors of particularly outstanding inventions have made to NGK. Recipients are presented with either the Contributory Invention Award, which recognizes patents and know-how that have contributed significantly to business performance, and the Innovative Invention Award, which recognizes patents, patent applications, and know-how for truly innovative inventions.
In fiscal 2020, after repeated and meticulous scrutiny of the petitions from inventors, two petitions were chosen for the Contributory Invention Award and one for the Innovative Invention Award. This was also the first time the Contributory Invention Award has been given for know-how.

Responding to Intellectual Property Risks Outside Japan

To support our business for automotive exhaust purification ceramic products, for which we conduct manufacturing on a global scale, we have built a mechanism for properly managing inventions at overseas plants. NGK promotes the practice of intellectual property management overseas at the same high level as in Japan.

TOPIC

Picture of a COVID-safe meeting with U.S. attorneys at law.
Mr. Takeru Torigoe (at right) from the Intellectual Property Department has a COVID-safe meeting with U.S. attorneys at law

Since fiscal 2020, a member of the Intellectual Property Department has been dispatched to patent law firms in the U.S. in order to help us improve the efficiency of our operations by gathering the latest intellectual property information from the U.S, receiving practical training, and facilitating smoother communications with our representatives.